Multiple Grizzlies, Black Bears Captured & Moved in Western Montana

Multiple Grizzlies, Black Bears Captured and Moved in Western Montana

Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks
Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks

MALTA, Mont. –-( Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks (FWP) biologists and field assistants captured and moved three grizzly bears and multiple black bears in western Montana’s Region 2 this month.

On September 11, FWP captured an adult male grizzly bear in the Woodworth Road area south of Seeley Lake. This bear was habituated to visiting residential areas and had become too comfortable grazing and spending time in close proximity to children and others. The grizzly was taken to a research facility at Washington State University in Pullman, WA.

Another female grizzly bear and her cub were captured on September 14 north of Seeley Lake. These bears were routinely searching out chicken feed as well as visiting porches and entering buildings looking for garbage, birdseed and grain. Because they were conditioned to unnatural food sources, these grizzlies could not be released back into the wild and were transported to the Tulsa, Oklahoma Zoo.

Since the first of September, FWP staff has also trapped four black bears in the Missoula area and many additional bears in other western Montana communities. FWP relocated three of the bears captured in Missoula to remote mountain areas around western Montana and took one cub to the FWP animal rehabilitation center in Helena to be held until it can be released in the spring.

In addition, a sub-adult male grizzly and two other grizzly bear cubs were killed along the highways in the Blackfoot-Clearwater drainage in August and September, and FWP continues to receive reports of other grizzlies and black bears crossing roads and neighborhoods across western Montana.

“The conflicts have increased dramatically over the past few weeks,” FWP Region 2 Bear Management Specialist, James Jonkel said. “Bears are in a period of intense eating before the winter season and they’re coming down into the valleys near communities and roadways looking for natural food, but they sometimes find easier sources like garbage and chicken coops along the way.”

When bears show up looking for food and receive food rewards in the form of pet and livestock food, bird feeders, and garbage left outdoors, they become conditioned and continue to return to those same areas.
Jonkel said that these bears tend to become bolder and more aggressive towards humans, and often there is no alternative but to relocate or euthanize the offender.

FWP is currently working to trap a few bears in Missoula’s Rattlesnake neighborhood that are food conditioned and chronically getting into unnatural food sources. Jonkel says that neighborhood residents should be commended for their work in keeping attractants contained but that they need to stay diligent through the fall.

“The best solution is prevention,” Jonkel said. “As a property owner, the most important thing to remember is to minimize bear attractants.”

Specifically, Jonkel reminds residents to keep garbage stored inside stout buildings or in a bear-resistant container until the day of collection, take down bird feeders until December and make sure chickens and feed are in a secure building or surrounded by an electric fence.

Fruit trees are also a major bear attractant right now, and homeowners should harvest fruit as soon as it ripens.

“We strongly urge residents to keep all garbage and other attractants secured until the snow flies,” Jonkel said.

Contact FWP at 406-542-5500 to learn more about how to minimize backyard bear attractants and what bear deterrent systems, such as bear-resistant garbage cans or electric fence kits, may be needed to keep attractants off-limits.